The elusive peace PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 28 June 2017 14:25




San Jose, CA. — The series of violent events in Mindanao betrayed all hopes for peace. It started with the massacre of 44 crack troops of the special action force, then the Zamboanga bloody siege staged by Nur Misuari’s armed band that cost the lives of civilians and soldiers, the bombing of a Davao night market that killed 15 civilians, the execution of foreign hostages by the Abu Sayyaf and the attack on the Islamic City of Marawi by forces said to be aligned with the Islamic State.

The political effects of these events extended far beyond Mindanao. The communist insurgents in Luzon and the Visayas have stepped up their attacks on army and police outposts. The dormant Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has felt betrayed by the Aquino government for leaving it out of the new peace process and focusing its much-heralded Bangsamoro Basic Law with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The intelligence community did not anticipate that the deadly Maute Group would take matters into its own hands.

The product of the above is today’s Mindanao tragedy. What will become of the Malaysia-brokered peace agreement between the MILF, proclaiming to be representing the Muslim-Filipinos, and the government which, according to skeptics, is destined to fail unless the MILF fighters lay down their arms?

El Presidente seems serious about getting the peace deal done with the Bangsamoro Filipinos. If there is an Arab Peace Plan which was initiated by Saudi Arabia 16 years ago, there should be a Mindanao Peace Agreement. The Marawi siege would be the moment of truth for El Presidente, a Davao native who like all Davaowenos never wanted to be a part of the autonomous Muslim region ever since this reconciliatory form of government was created by PresIdent Marcos through the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. He may want to employ his mastery of coalition techniques and embrace all Muslim factions and tribes, or he might want to be remembered as the man who fomented a civil war. What shall it be, sir?

What did the Marawi siege mean? According to the 2015 census, there are about 201,785 people living in Marawi, making it the largest city in the province of Lanao del Sur. Why did this terror group pick Marawi populated by 99.6 percent Muslims and not Basilian, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi or Maguindanao, provinces also dominated by Muslim-Filipinos? For one thing, and perhaps foremost, Marawi is the home of National Power Corporation’s Agus I hydro-electric power plant and the first of six cascading Agus Hydro power plants. It supplies around 60 percent of the power needs of Mindanao. If they succeed in taking Marawi, which is very remote, almost an impossibility, they will have part control of the power generation in Mindanao. If that happens, you can forget about Marawi’s economic potentials which is largely agriculture, goldsmithing, sawmilling, and (haha) counterfeiting.

The “Islamic City of Marawi” tag came about through Parliamentary Bill No. 261 in the defunct Batasan Pambansa during the Marcos regime to attract funds from some Middle East countries. Unfortunately, it attracted Islamic terrorists. Now, Marawi is the epicenter of the Mindanao crisis.

There seems to be no end to the fighting that started last May 23. In the attempt to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the government launched a mighty offensive against his armed band numbering about 500 heavily-armed, well-trained terrorists. The armed forces claimed that some of them are foreigners who have been hooked up with the Maute Group waiting for “strike” orders. The objective of the terrorists, according to the military, is to raise the ISIS flag at the provincial capitol and declare a “wilakat”, or a provincial ISIS territory in the Philippines.

Against the overwhelming forces of the military and police, the terrorists have managed to hold on to their positions, even as Air Force fighter bombers and heavy artillery continue to pound the terrorist-held neighborhoods.

The bombardment has burned much of Marawi and has forced thousands to flee their homes. Though trapped, the terrorists continue to retaliate, using their hostages, that include a priest, as shields. There is no telling if and when they will surrender.

Nevertheless, the retaking and eventual rebuilding of Marawi will not end the war in Mindanao as we have seen it for more than four decades. Even with the capture of Hapilon and neutralization of his group, various other terror groups and rebels will continue to terrorize villages, kidnap and kill civilians and fight for territory in the regions that they operate. Until the dark forces are completely annihilated, Malacanang and Davao are left with nothing but promises and denunciations. Hence, the title of today’s column.

If the battle of Marawi ends today, the agony and chaos that were created will linger for many years, as was the burning of Jolo in the 70s.